Waiting for the squirrel, I am sitting outside, holding a ready camera. The squirrel is nowhere to be seen; ‘he must have gone visiting relatives,’ I think.
WhatsApp has produced hundreds of new actors, producers, and coronavirus experts. Trump and Modi’s parodies are circulating in abundance. Jokes about the lockdown trapped husbands tolerating abuse from their wives have become a trend. The men with no idea about what housewives did daily are shown mopping and cleaning dishes in the videos. New corona songs have sprung up to the tunes of the familiar, old classics. Religious and the devout have flooded the space with prayers and pronouncements of the power of the God almighty. ‘WhatsApp-university’ is attracting intellectuals, and many of whom have never seen a book of science in their lives are confidently providing recipes to cure people of the coronavirus. The news of several hundred deaths from drinking methanol because of one such WhatsApp prescription emerges from Iran. On the right side of the aisle, a multitude of reports of the Sikhs providing langar for the needy is developing around the world and getting full attention and praise. I feel proud; there cannot be a better time than this to tout my Sikh roots.
March 29, 2020
Our Bradford pear is full of white flowers. The taller among the line of trees are still without leaves, but the shorter ones are now fully green. When I started taking pictures, the little leafless plum in front of the trees was not even noticeable, and now full of flowers, it is getting all the attention. ‘How a tiny little thing like this coronavirus can change the course of the entire world,’ I wonder. The roads all over the world are deserted or near empty, pollution-spewing factories stand shut, the atmosphere has gotten so clean that one can, once again, see the Himalayas from as far as Ludhiana and Jalandhar. The chirping of the birds now comes crisper, and the wild animals that survived in hiding without people knowing they even existed, are daring to venture into the open. But the irony is, as the air gets cleaner, the humans need to put on masks to get around.
The last month witnessed contrasting traits of the human makeup. Whereas the news of people risking their lives to feed thousands and thousands through langar brought the ethical, caring aspects of the man to the forefront, the reports are abundant to throw light on many selfish and despicable facets of our being. The Sikhs, I had always believed, revered the Hazuri, Ragi Singhs of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Bhai Nirmal Singh, who had died of the coronavirus, was one such eminent Hazuri Ragi Singh at the Golden Temple. However, the residents of the village Verka refused his body to be cremated in their cremation grounds. As a result, the cremation was done in an unmarked, unclaimed land, away from the town. People have been pelting stones at the police who are working hard to save the lives of these very people, by ensuring they stay in their homes. The country does not have enough masks and other protective gear to protect the doctors, nurses, and other health care staff, and still, these doctors and nurses are risking their lives to save people. However, the landlords have been throwing these doctors and nurses out of the rented houses, making them homeless. The same people, who, when in need, treat these doctors as gods are now treating them as outcasts.
When cooped up in their homes, people could certainly enjoy the latest movies and soap operas. But there is nothing new to watch on the TV. All productions of soap operas and films have been halted. The world’s major sports leagues have been shut down. Tokyo Olympics have been postponed, and the tennis, my favorite support, ATP tour has been suspended. In India, the country of 1.3 billion, all movements of people have been stopped for 21 days, making people curl up in place. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers can neither go to work nor return home. The USA, the country known for its best health system in the world, has the highest number of Corona cases. The country is out of masks and ventilators, and the government is forced to infuse $3 trillion to keep its economy afloat.
April 2, 2020:
It is my mother, Surjit Kaur’s birthday today; she has turned 83. She is watching sparrows eating at the bird feeder. It is not the squirrel, but hey ‘the sparrows would do,’ I decide and put my camera to action. I get lucky and capture two birds without them even realizing it. Since its Bibi ji’s birthday, the food today will be cooked to her liking, and she chooses chhole puri with krah-halwa. We cannot get a cake from outside, so my wife Manjeet makes krah-halwa and plates it in the shape of a donut cake.